Let’s close a block to party, pray or pay respects

A wedding celebration takes over a block not far from Toul Sleng, the infamous converted school in which hundreds faced torture and death under the Khmer Rouge.

A wedding celebration takes over a block not far from Toul Sleng, the infamous converted school in which hundreds faced torture and death during the Khmer Rouge years of horror.

Most residents of Cambodia live in spare housing that lack space for numerous guests.  When the occasion demands many invitees, what to do?

Such an occasion might be a funeral, an engagement party, a wedding or a Buddhist ceremony showing respect and support for the elderly.  I have yet to be invited to a wedding here, even in this the high season.

Engagement 1

The flowers arching over the doorway of this tent to celebrate an engagement to marry probably cost the demonstrably wealthy hosts $2,000-3,000. The music blaring from the tent, a block from my bedroom window, woke me up not long after 5 a.m.

Although there are a few cavernous catering halls for weddings, they undoubtedly are beyond the reach of most Cambodians; dinners in them involve only part of festivities that may well be extended over several days. Traditionalists place emphasis on having important events close to home.

The answer to the question in the first paragraph is to rent a tent or tents, the second one being for food preparation.

On a highly trafficked street, the tent on the left is for for food preparation, while the one on the right is for remembering the dead.  Please note the white attire.

On a highly trafficked street, the tent on the left is for food preparation, while the one on the right (also below) is for remembering the deceased. Inside, please note the white attire of the guests and the tented opening barely visible to the right, where an image is displayed of the person who died.

Funeral 2

If the tent happens to block the road, well, no one seems to mind.  Nor does anyone seek or, therefore, obtain permission.

I have encountered tents extending from store fronts onto a sidewalk and into a road.  They are for funerals, and most last for days.

You can discern what the tents are for generally by the colors of their décor.  Black and white is for funerals, for which most participants where white.  Pastels, usually pink, signify nuptials.  And orange likely means a Buddhist ceremony.

I do frequently come across street-straddling tents as I make my way around Phnom Penh.  On a Sunday last month, I saw three of them in my perambulation of barely more than an hour.

Below, you’ll find additional photos, which I took that Sunday along with the others in this post (except for the one at the top).  I hope you enjoy them.

Elders 1

This tent was erected to show respect for the elderly and to wish them a long life. Just below is how the interior looked as the event ebbed and provides a glimpse of the feasting.

Elders Ceremony-2

Engagement-2

Even overhead fans were added to the celebration of a couple’s engagement to be married. A formal dinner undoubtedly followed at a catering establishment that night.

 e-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com

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